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close this bookAssessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)
close this folderVI. Achieving a multiplier effect through shelter projects
View the document6.1 Impact on institutional capabilities and public-sector roles in the shelter-delivery process
View the document6.2 Impact on urbanization, urban growth, spatial planning and infrastructure provision
View the document6.3 Addressing constraints in land and housing markets
View the document6.4 Impact on building and planning codes, regulations and standards
View the document6.5 Development of the construction industry and construction techniques

6.1 Impact on institutional capabilities and public-sector roles in the shelter-delivery process

The coordination of many different public-sector agencies is required for the preparation, implementation and management of appropriate and affordable shelter projects. This requirement is often difficult to achieve, given that each of these agencies has its own priorities and methods of working. Furthermore, these agencies must be individually and collectively capable of undertaking developmental operations within complex land and housing markets in ways that will not only achieve internal project objectives, but improve the efficiency and equity characteristics of these markets over time as well. Such an ambitious agenda places a heavy burden on the public sector of any country. Traditionally, these agencies have been required to administer discrete packages of housing goods and services according to pre-determined norms and procedures. Changes in the tasks required of them stretch management and technical resources and require levels of coordination with other related agencies that may be lacking and difficult to develop. Many agencies are handicapped by a shortage of well-trained professional staff and depend upon imported systems of administration.

To overcome these constraints, it is sometimes considered advisable to establish new institutions with specific responsibility for undertaking innovative projects, in the hope that this will establish the necessary institutional capability for wider application. In the event, new agencies have created their own problems. Existing agencies may regard them as competitors for scarce resources. Furthermore, the new agencies frequently depend upon staff seconded from existing agencies, whose loyalties are inevitably split. Even if these problems do not arise, any addition to the number of agencies operating in the sector renders the task of coordination more difficult.

Another option frequently adopted is to establish special project units or cells within existing agencies that can operate as a multi-disciplinary team in close collaboration with outside consultants. This approach is particularly common in projects funded by international agencies. In India, for example, many housing and development authorities have their World Bank project cells. The difficulty with this approach is that the projects, and the teams involved with them, remain as separate units and are disbanded when the project is completed. Thus, the concepts and methods they employ do not permeate into the mainstream activities of the parent institutions.

In the Ismailia Demonstration Projects, a compromise solution was adopted. This involved the establishment of a locally based project agency staffed by personnel seconded from local government agencies. To assist the agency in the implementation of the projects and establish local capability to undertake similar projects in the future, technical assistance was provided under international aid programmes. This arrangement worked so well that the project agency was later expanded and reformulated to become the Ismailia Planning and Land Development Agency. A similar process can be seen in the Dandora project in Nairobi.

An even more basic consideration in the development of institutional capability relates to the perceived role of housing-development agencies within the sector. The enormous scale and complexity of the demand for shelter in developing countries cannot be resolved by applying rigid administrative systems. What is required is a dynamic, efficient, coordinated and flexible response from all public sector agencies involved. This suggests that there is a need to move away from traditional concepts of administration, towards a management approach which embodies these qualities and uses available resources to achieve a complementary relationship between public, private and voluntary (NGO/CBO) sectors.

The evidence of this study suggests that it will take some years to achieve such a transformation. The common approach by which proposals are first prepared by town planners, passed to architects, then engineers and then surveyors, often before they are even costed, or related to the needs of the intended beneficiaries, still continues in many countries. In other cases, local authorities do not possess the capacity to prepare development plans or project proposals. They are thus forced to depend upon outside consultants appointed by funding agencies. It is also difficult for many senior professionals accustomed to having their authority accepted without question, to accept the benefits of working as partners with low-income communities, taking advice from social workers and accepting that new developments may look like slums for the first few years.

In Turkey, the Government has recently decided to concentrate on providing developmental rights and services to existing squatter and informal settlements, rather than develop land itself. This reflects a considerable shift in public-sector roles within the sector though it would be an exaggeration to claim that this is due to the impact of projects.

The Sri Lankan experience is perhaps the most radical example of new public-sector roles being developed through the project approach. This centres upon the adoption of a support strategy in which the State ensures the supply of secure and affordable land, infrastructure and facilities in ways that encourage households to organize their own housing. Far from being an abrogation of responsibility, this represents a more challenging role than the traditional one of building conventional subsidized housing units for a select minority. Such a transformation in professional attitudes and levels of technical expertise require a substantial investment in training or staff development. In Sri Lanka, this was undertaken over a long period as an integral part of the implementation of the MHP. The transformation was essential to overcome problems with the previous 100,000 Houses Programme, where administrative inefficiencies and inadequate staffing resulted in only 8500 housing units being produced or upgraded between 1980 and 1984 (UNCHS, 1987: 3).

Another limitation that had to be addressed in Sri Lanka was that the relaxations in conventional public-sector administrative requirements were restricted to low-income projects and do not appear to have applied to other developments. The same constraint appears to apply to participation (UNCHS, 1987: 86). On the basis of the Sri Lankan experience, it is possible to develop a decision-making matrix for four key levels of shelter action; the household, the community, the local authority and the national government. Each of these can be related to a range of decisions, or choices, which need to be made and the appropriate types of support which an effective shelter strategy can provide to facilitate the provision of appropriate and affordable shelter at the scale required. Such a decision-making matrix is presented in table 5.

A common problem in moving away from projects providing completed housing units towards those undertaken as part of support policies, is that there is an increasing need for technical assistance from project staff. This imposes considerable indirect, and unaccounted, costs on a project as staff members attempt to respond to the unique circumstances and needs of individual households. In Papua New Guinea, for example, technical-assistance staff found themselves being required to act as unpaid contractors to project beneficiaries. This was partly because the beneficiaries were unable to make much progress in their spare time and also because they lacked the technical proficiency to conform to official building regulations. Technical assistance therefore needs to be properly costed if such programmes are to be replicated and adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff are to be made available as required.

In Zimbabwe, projects have evolved considerably during the short period since independence in 1980. The introduction of aided self-help projects reflected a move towards project beneficiaries ultimately paying the full cost of their housing (or at least for the building). This developed into a strategy in which government investment is intended to be matched by both the private sector and project beneficiaries in equal amounts. While adopting this strategy, the role of the public sector has been increasingly redefined towards the enabling approach advocated in the GSS. This is seen as comprising aided self-help, full cost recovery and a partnership between public and private sectors (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 62). In practice, this involves expanded sites-and-services projects. It thus allocates a major role to the public sector in the provision of serviced land, despite general experience in other countries that this has not ensured replicability. If public systems of provision are unable to satisfy demands for land, services, finance and housing for all on a sustainable basis, other options will need to be considered.

Table 5. Decision-making matrix for the four programme levels of the MHP

Decision-making level




- designing the house

- design options

- choice of technology

- technology options

- choice of materials

- community building guidelines

- building the house

- small housing loan

- mobilizing resources

- information and training


- organizing CDCs

- organizing workshops

- planning and programming the Action Plan

- regularization of tenure

- collective decision-making in the

- blocking out guidelines

- content of the building guidelines

- preparation of design and Bills of Qualities

- design and construction of amenities

- provision of funds

- information and training

Local authority

- identification and prioritizing of settlements programming of work

- implementation guidelines

- allocation of funds

- provision of funds

- selection of householders

- technical support

- information and training


- linking housing to local governments

- define and interpret support-based policies

- strengthening the local government

- articulate programme through various forms of support: financial, technical and training

- ensure countrywide programmes and implementation

- national guidelines and procedures

- how not to dominate local institutions

Source: Jayaratne (1990: 92)

In many other countries, a major problem with innovative shelter projects occurs when they are handed over to the local authorities for routine maintenance. The greater the separation between planning or implementation agencies and the local authorities, the more likely these problems are to arise. This suggests that local authorities should be closely involved in the early stages of project identification, planning and implementation. Furthermore, they should be involved in the planning phase regarding financial and maintenance issues.

In some countries, new public-sector roles emphasize the need to establish more productive relationships with the private sector. In Indonesia, for example, the management of the public-sector housing corporation is becoming more professional as it has to compete, and collaborate, with private developers (Herlianto, 1990: 95).

In other countries, the emphasis is placed on the contribution of NGOs and on how to develop better relationships between them and government agencies. The experience gained in self-help in Zambia resulted in a government commitment to encourage home-ownership through self-help efforts based upon sites-and-services and settlement upgrading. To this end, local councils are expected to adopt an enabling role and NGOs have been institutionalized at the national level. Jere (1991b), however, considers that Zambian projects have tended to concentrate on the symptoms rather than the underlying causes of urban poverty. One limitation in overcoming this situation is the weakness of local and city government, which has greater responsibilities than its resources enable it to fulfil.

The approach adopted by Kent-Koop (The Union of Ban-Kent Housing Cooperatives) in Turkey is worth mentioning in this connection. This non-profit organization was founded in 1979 by 13 housing cooperatives with the intention of providing housing for low- and medium-income groups. A number of groups, such as trade unions, traders’ and artisans’ organizations and various professional chambers contributed to the formation of Kent-Koop, under the leadership of Ankara Municipality. The construction activities of Kent-Koop started at the Bati-Kent location, 16 kilometres from Ankara city centre, on land provided by the Ankara Municipality. The initial target was to construct 4500 housing units annually. This target has later been exceeded. In addition to its construction activities, Kent-Koop also established several non-profit organizations working in the fields of mapping and surveying, design, engineering and production of building materials. These organizations are currently functioning successfully. By 1989, Kent-Koop had assisted 33 different municipalities in organizing joint ventures with local housing cooperatives, addressing the needs of about 200,000 households (Kent-Koop, 1989).

A last, but by no means least, issue to be raised in this section is that staff mobility and high levels of secondment often make it difficult for experience gained on projects to be assimilated for the benefit of future projects. The institutional culture of the public sector is thus often averse to the notion of innovation and the risk taking that is needed for successful shelter projects (see also section 2.3.1). Much more attention is needed if this major constraint is to be resolved.